The Fifth Station of the Cross
Did Jesus Touch This Wall?
Location – The Via Dolorosa
Map Coordinates - 31.779533, 35.232294
Merged Gospels, story 278
Every Octagon Tour member has the chance to touch the stone where Jesus supposedly left a bloody handprint on His way to Golgotha.
During most of His walk down the Via Dolorosa Jesus did not carry the cross alone. There was a moment when the Roman soldiers compelled a man to help Jesus, and the fifth station of the cross commemorates this event. His name was Simon from the city of Cyrene in Africa, which was 940 miles away from Jerusalem – about a 50-day walking distance. While Simon may have been originally from Cyrene, he was probably living in the countryside near Jerusalem during the time of Jesus’ death. Roman soldiers were allowed to force any Jew to carry their luggage for at least a mile, so ordering Simon to help carry the cross was keeping with the way that the soldiers treated the Jews.
The Stone Tile on the Outer Wall of the Chapel.
It is believed that this ancient stone was touched by Jesus as He walked toward Calvary.
Embedded in this modern wall is an ancient stone. It is believed that Jesus stumbled against this wall, and in losing His balance He touched this wall, leaving behind bloodstains. Originally, it is believed that this ancient rock was about 15 feet lower, below the street level, at the depth of the original Via Dolorosa. But as the city rose in elevation, this relic was elevated to the place where you see it now. This impression was not caused by the hand of Jesus, but possibly by someone who carved the stone into its current shape, and then rubbed by countless millions of pilgrims who have passed this way over the last 2000 years.
The bloody handprint of Jesus probably did not impress the owner of this wall in the first century. However, after hearing about Jesus’ resurrection, this bloody handprint then became a relic, and that’s why this shape was carved into this wall, on the very spot where the bloody handprint, now washed off, was seen.
Did Jesus actually touch this spot?
It seems very likely that any stone bearing the bloody handprint of a man who three days later rose from the dead would have been a cherished relic, not only preserved by the owner of this wall, but subsequently honored by pilgrims from all over the world. Today this stone is a touch point for the faith of people who come here, and who wish to make a personal and quiet connection with the Savior.
Inside the Chapel.
This chapel at the Fifth Station of the Cross was constructed on the site of the first Franciscan church in the Holy Land that was built here in 1229 AD. Throughout history it was also believed that this was the home of the poor man who bore the name Lazarus in Jesus’ parable of The Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31).
Luke 23:26 says that Simon was forced to help Jesus, Who was apparently too weak to bear the cross by Himself. The picture that Luke gives us is one of both men carrying the cross, with Jesus lifting the cross in front, and Simon bearing the remainder of the load behind Him.
The Rest of the Story.
Whatever happened to Simon the Cyrene? We believe that He was probably living near Jerusalem at this time, since his city of origin was a 50-day walking journey away.
The Gospel of Mark tells us that he was the father of two sons, Alexander and Rufus. Mentioning the name of his sons may sound like nonessential trivia, until you realize that Mark wrote his Gospel in the city Rome, to be read by Romans, and Mark mentioned these two sons, most likely, because they were known to his Roman readers.
Simon the Cyrene, with his two sons, Alexander and Rufus.
When the Apostle Paul, who had never been to Rome, wrote a letter to the Romans, he said, in chapter 16, verse 13, “Greet Rufus, a choice man in the Lord, and his mother, who is a mother to me as well.” Many scholars believe that this Rufus, to which Paul refers, was, in fact, one of the sons of Simon the Cyrene, and that he was probably famous in the Roman church because he was both a missionary to this city, and because his father was famous for carrying the cross of Jesus.
There is a first-century Christian ossuary, or bone box, that was discovered in Jerusalem in 1941, with an inscription that reads, “Alexander, son of Simon”, with the possible inclusion of the word “the Cyrene”. All of this suggests that the members of this Jewish family, Alexander, Rufus and their mother, became believers in Jesus. But why would they, just because Simon was forced to carry the cross for a man condemned as a common criminal?
Was Simon the Cyrene aware that Jesus rose from the grave?
One of the most thought-provoking revelations that come out of the story of Jesus’ walk to Emmaus is the strong implication that everyone in Jerusalem was aware of Jesus’ return to life. Here is what Cleopas said to the resurrected Christ on the way to Emmaus.
“Are You the only stranger in Jerusalem, that You do not know the things that came to pass in it during these days?”…certain women of ours astonished us, coming early to the tomb, and not finding His body, they also came, claiming to have seen an apparition of angels, who said, ‘He is alive.’ And certain ones with us went away to the tomb, and found it even as the women said, and they did not see Him.” (LK 22:18,22-24)
For this reason I believe that learning of Christ’s resurrection completely changed the life of Simon the Cyrene and his entire family. Perhaps Simon learned shortly after he helped carry the cross, that this same condemned Man had just risen from the dead.
We have both Paul’s statement about Rufus in Rome, and the Alexander-son-of-Simon ossuary box that was discovered in Jerusalem. All of this suggests that Simon the Cyrene went from being an actual physical follower of Jesus, that is, right behind Him under the cross, to a spiritual follower, along with his entire family.
For all we know, this family could have been among the original followers of Jesus, who eventually took His Gospel to the city of Rome.